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UNAIDS: Anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Africa could prompt spike in HIV cases 

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May signed Anti-Homosexuality Act



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

GENEVA — The U.N body on the HIV pandemic has raised concerns over a spike in the disease among gay and Transgender people in eastern and southern Africa due to harsh anti-homosexuality laws.

The UNAIDS in its latest 2023 Global AIDS Update report released last month notes laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations have remained a major obstacle in preventing and treating HIV among the LGBTQ+ community. These statutes have been enacted in the region the disease has impacted the most and in a part of Africa that has seen significant progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections. 

New HIV infections have dropped by 57 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 58 percent among heterosexual people since 2010. 

“HIV incidence has reduced substantially by 73 percent since 2010 among adult men aged 15-49 years, but it is not declining among gay men and other men who have sex with men,” reads the 196-page UNAIDS report. 

HIV prevalence in 2022 around the world was 11 times higher among gay men aged 15-49 years, compared to heterosexual men within the same age bracket and 14 times higher among Trans people. 

The report reveals the HIV prevalence among gay men stands at 12.9 percent and 42.8 percent for Trans persons in 21 of 24 surveyed countries in eastern and southern Africa where a total of 20.8 million people in live with the virus. 

The disease remains rife among gay men and Trans people and efforts to combat it among the aforementioned population continues to lag because of stigma and discrimination in accessing equitable HIV care from anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and in other countries.   

A total of 67 countries in the world criminalize homosexuality, with nearly half of them being in Africa. Twenty countries criminalize trans people.

A recent survey in 10 sub-Saharan African countries showed HIV prevalence among gay men was five times higher in countries that criminalize consensual same-sex relationships compared Rwanda and South Africa and other nations that don’t. 

The survey also notes HIV prevalence was 12 times higher in countries that use anti-homosexuality laws to prosecute gay men, compared to nations without such prosecutions. It also notes HIV prevalence was more than nine times higher in countries that curtail the operations of pro-LGBTQ+ civil society organizations, compared to nations that do not obstruct them. 

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima noted HIV/AIDS killed one person every minute last year. She also called for stronger collaboration and equality to end the disease by 2030. 

“HIV responses succeed when they are anchored in strong political leadership to follow the evidence, tackle the inequalities holding back progress, enable communities and civil society organizations in their vital roles in the response and ensure sufficient and sustainable funding,” she said.    

The UNAIDS report points out gay men and Trans people are left out of HIV treatment programs in eastern and southern Africa, where coverage among adult women stands at 86 percent and men at 78 percent. 

The neglect that punitive laws and police harassment exacerbates has, in turn, led to HIV prevention gaps that increase the risk of transmission and limit access to services and sabotages efforts to decrease the impact of the virus among the group. 

Uganda this year enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act with a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality” and severe punishment for organizations the government claims promote homosexuality. A similar punitive bill is set to be introduced in Kenya’s Parliament. 

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Act in May saw a U.S.-funded HIV treatment clinic in Kampala that normally sees dozens of patients a day almost deserted because clients, many of them gay, feared arrest.

“Removal or reform of these laws in line with public health evidence would boost the HIV response and the human rights of people from marginalized populations, particularly, key populations who continue to have much higher HIV prevalence than the general population,” the UNAIDS report states.

In 2022, a total of $9.8 billion meant for universal HIV financing in eastern and southern Africa was spent. Thirty-nine percent of this money was domestic funding, while the rest came from the Global Fund, UNAIDS, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other international donor organizations. Botswana, Kenya and South Africa contributed the largest share of donor funding. 

UNAIDS asks countries to use disaggregated data to effectively identify populations to ensure the LGBTQ+ community and other key groups are not left out of HIV care since many countries lack programs and size estimates. UNAIDS also requests stronger action against stigma and discrimination at healthcare facilities in order to increase access and use of HIV testing and treatment services by all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Failure to protect people from key populations against HIV will prolong the pandemic indefinitely at great cost to the affected communities and societies,” warns UNAIDS. 

UNAIDS notes Singapore and other countries last year repealed laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and Trans people and introduced statutes that protect gender identity. UNAIDS, nevertheless, in its report raised concerns over an increase in homophobia and transphobia in countries that prompt the introduction of anti-homosexuality laws.



Kenyan advocacy group offers safety tips to LGBTQ+ hookup app users

Blackmail, kidnappings and assaults are commonplace



(Bigstock photo)

MOMBASA, Kenya — The growing cases of queer people in Africa becoming victims of blackmail, physical and sexual assault from online hook-ups have compelled a Kenyan LGBTQ+ rights group to work with the community to help it stay safe when using digital platforms.

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion held a 3-day training from May 11-14 to teach queer people about unsafe social media and dating app hook-up practices that suspected homophobes exploit.

The Mombasa-based group of which Lizzie Ngina is executive coordinator noted lesbian, bisexual and queer women, and gender non-conforming people are the most frequent targets online and on Grindr and other dating apps.

 “LBQ women and GNC persons confront major challenges in terms of digital security and data protection, freedom of expression, assembly, association, speech, privacy, protest and online organizing,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion stated.

Although the digital platforms were seen as convenient meet-up places for LGBTQ+ people in overcoming physical anti-gay attacks, Upinde Advocates for Inclusion said anti-gay discrimination, marginalization, gender-based violence, misinformation, and disinformation limits LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming people from accessing the social media services.    

Queer people while using dating apps and social media for hookups were, however, urged to first trust their intuition before deciding to have a physical meeting with people with whom they chat online.

“If it does not seem like someone you are messaging is using their true identity, they probably are not. In this case, do not agree to meet them in person,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion warned. 

It asked LGBTQ+ users to ensure the first in-person meeting with someone they met online is in a public place that is queer-friendly and known to them. Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also advised queer people to inform their trusted friends or family about their meeting plans, the place, and how long they expect it will take place in order to ensure someone can intervene if something goes wrong.

“Organize your own means of transport to and from the meeting, and do not accept a free ride from a stranger,” the group warned. “Also, do not move to a secondary location if you feel unsure during the meeting.” 

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also warned queer app users to remain sober during the meeting and cautioned against leaving their food or drinks unattended in order to avoid any potential risks associated with spiking.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Ishtar-MSM and other Kenyan LGBTQ+ advocacy groups that offer legal aid to queer people last year reported about 100 cases of blackmail, extortion, physical and sexual assault against their members by suspected homophobes they met on dating apps and social media.

The two organizations this month noted 10 of the cases are expected before courts soon, although they said most victims of anti-gay attacks don’t report them to the authorities because they fear further stigmatization and discrimination. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in Kenya. 

Targeting the LGBTQ+ community on digital platforms and dating apps is not unique to Kenya.

The Washington Blade last month reported it is still risky for queer Nigerians to search for a partner or to use gay dating apps infiltrated by homophobes who lure them to meet in-person and then rob or assault them. South African authorities last year arrested four men in connection with the targeting of Grindr users.

LGBTQ+ Kenyans urged to protect themselves at protests

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion in their workshop taught participants about the signs that suspected homophobes or their associates have compromised their devices. They include unusual activities on their cell phones that include calls with untraced history, disappearing blank messages, blinking screens, high data consumption, devices that overheat when not in use and echo when picking calls and quick battery depletion with minimal use.

“If you suspect your device is compromised, do not format or reset it, log out all the accounts, find an alternative device to use, change the password for the accounts on the device, and do not connect the gadget to any other devices,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion warned. 

The group also taught queer people about how they should conduct themselves when taking part in street protests amid anti-gay attacks. Upinde Advocates for Inclusion advised them to always to identify safe alternative routes to and from the protests, wear comfortable running shoes, and always carry a spare outfit that is not LGBTQ+-specific.

“If you are in a group, always strategize on having a meeting point should there be any danger or should you get separated,” the group stated. “Also, try to split up responsibilities among the group so that one person can’t be targeted.”

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also urged queer people to always leave a protest before it ends, to have an emergency contact on speed dial or memorize it for immediate help in case of danger and to always to keep in touch with a trusted contact who is familiar with the protest but not attending it. 

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Uganda’s president meets with US ambassador

Unclear whether William Popp raised Anti-Homosexuality Act



Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni meets with U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Museveni's X account)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

ENTEBBE, Uganda — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 10 met with U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp.

Museveni in a post to his X account described the meeting, which took place at his official residence in Entebbe, as “productive.”

“We discussed key issues, such as the upcoming Census, regional peace, and socio-economic development. I emphasized the need for an inclusive census for informed decision-making,” said Museveni. “I also shared my views on fostering peace and security in the region. Additionally, we discussed opportunities in transitioning our population from a rural-based pre-capitalist society to industry and services.”

statement the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Ministry released noted Popp “conveyed his appreciation for the president’s valuable time and wise counsel.” 

“He also acknowledged President Museveni’s extensive knowledge and experience, underscoring the importance of their continued dialogue in fostering a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Uganda,” said the statement.

The statement further notes Foreign Affairs Minister Jele Odongo; Defense and Veterans Affairs Minister Jacob Oboth-Oboth; Rosette Byengoma of the Defense Ministry; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Okiding, who is deputy chief of the Ugandan defense forces, attended the meeting.

The meeting took place nearly a year after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. has sanctioned Ugandan officials and removed the country from a duty-free trade program. The World Bank Group also suspended new loans to Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court last month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

It is not clear whether Popp raised the Anti-Homosexuality Act with Museveni during their meeting.

“We do not discuss the details of private diplomatic engagements; however, we have regularly raised with the highest levels of Ugandan government U.S. government concerns about democratic space, rule of law, and respect for human rights for all Ugandans, including members of the LGBTQI+ community in relation to the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

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South African president signs hate crimes, hate speech law

Advocates largely welcome new statute



South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a campaign stop speaking with attendees at the ANC Party Rally on May 10, 2024 in Tshwane, Gauteng, SA (Office of President Cyril Ramaphosa/Facebook)

PRETORIA, South Africa — South African LGBTQ+ organizations have welcomed a new law that seeks to combat hate crimes and hate speech.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 9 signed the Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill that had been introduced in 2018.

According to the new law; the direct or indirect unfair discrimination against anyone on the grounds of age, albinism, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant, refugee status, asylum seekers, occupation, trade, political affiliation, conviction, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics or skin color is a criminal offense punishable by a fine or up to eight years in prison.

“A hate crime is committed if a person commits any recognized offense under any law that is motivated by prejudice or intolerance based on one or more characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim, as listed in the legislation or a family member of the victim,” said the president’s office. “The law also makes it an offense when speech material is intentionally distributed or made available in electronic communication, and the said person knows that such electronic communication constitutes hate speech.”

Crimen injuria, the unlawful and intentional impairing of dignity or privacy of another person under common law, was in place before the new law. Crimen injuria, which to extent protected some forms of hate against the LGBTQ+ community, is still active.

The Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, however, is more comprehensive in the sense that it particularly focuses on hate speech and hate crimes, and therefore makes it easier to seek legal recourse than under crimen injuria.

“As Out, we commend President Cyril Ramaphosa on the move that he has made in making sure that the rights of LGBTQ+ persons are protected. We, as Out, also hope that other African countries can learn from this historic milestone that all people are equal and that their rights should be protected,” said Out LGBT South Rights Human Rights Coordinator Sibonelo Ncanana. 

Ncanana specifically applauded Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister John Jeffrey and the working group that helped secure the bill’s passage.

“We hope that all government departments will enforce the mandate of the act,” said Ncanana. “We also hope that it will help in decreasing the amount of hate crimes that are happening in South Africa, create safer communities, and that LGBTQ+ people will find themselves safe.”

Ruth Maseko of Umndeni LGBTI Group and the Triangle Project said the new law creates a precedent of what constitutes hate crime and the repercussions.

“We are delighted at the passing of the bill after so many years, as it creates a legal definition of hate crimes,” said Maseko. “This now puts in place mechanisms for authorities to collect and report details about these incidents of hate for the effective monitoring, analysis of trends, and appropriate interventions that are needed.”

Maseko added that although the new law will aid in giving the courts a framework to work in when handling cases of hate, it will not really deter people from committing those crimes.

“The new law will provide quantitative and qualitative data as currently we have no way of telling how many of these crimes are committed. The only way we know, is when they are reported to a civil society organization or are reported in the media,” said Maseko.

“Although it will do nothing to change the attitudes of people who act out in these ways, the law does send out a message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in South Africa and will provide additional tools to investigators and prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions,” added Maseko.

The law, however, does not consider actions undertaken in good faith as part of hate speech. They include artistic creativity, performance or other form of expression, academic or scientific inquiry fair, and accurate reporting or commentary in the public interest. 

It also excludes interpretation and articulating or espousing of any religious conviction, tenet, belief, teaching, doctrine or writing that does not advocate hatred or constitutes incitement to cause harm. The law also contains directives on training and other measures to be undertaken by the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure effective processing of the newly defined crimes. 

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Senegalese NGO claims new president discussed LGBTQ+ rights with top EU official

Jamra Ong Islamique demands government expedite anti-LGBTQ+ law



Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye (Screen capture via Reuters/YouTube)

DAKAR, Senegal — A Senegalese NGO has called on the government to expedite the process of enacting an anti-LGBTQ+ law after the country’s new president met with a top EU official.

Jamra Ong Islamique made the call during a press conference last Wednesday after newly elected Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye met with European Council President Charles Michel.

Mamae Makhtar Gueye of Jamra Ong Islamique claimed the meeting between the two dignitaries involved an acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ rights in Senegal. Gueye said Michel is an LGBTQ+ ally who wants to change Senegal’s cultural customs that do not condone LGBTQ+ rights.

“His ardent proselytism for the expansion of LGBT ideology could not leave Jamra indifferent,” said Gueye. “Countries including Gabon, Central African Republic, and Mauritius, amongst others, that underestimated the nuisance of these propagandists of homosexuality paid dearly for it because these global lobbyists ended up legalizing this abomination, so beware.” 

Gueye, however, has received a lot of backlash and has been accused of not raising the same sentiments during the tenure of former President Macky Sall, who also met with Michel.

“Did he come as a defender of the LGBT cause or as a European official? Did he come to talk about LGBT rights or partnership agreement between the European Union and Senegal?,” asked Ahmadou Diaw, a Senegalese academic. “Mr. Gueye should know when to alert and when to shut up.”

Cheikh Maï Niang, a social commentator, described Jamra as a “useless organization” that is focused on restricting the freedom of the Senegalese people.

“They are absolutely good for nothing apart from eating the taxpayer’s money,” said Niang. “Where is the democracy we cry about everyday? Seems like they are here to restrict the freedom of the Senegalese people.”

“Not everyone is interested in religion,” added Niang. “We wasted too much time with these useless things. Let’s talk about developing the country. People should live their lives in the manner they want.”

Jamra has previously made proclamations against the LGBTQ+ community.

The organization in February — before Senegal’s presidential election that took place on March 24 — accused the EU Electoral Observation Mission to Senegal of wanting to indoctrinate Senegalese people with their pro-LGBTQ+ narrative.

Senegal does not have a law that specifically criminalizes those who identify as LGBTQ+ or advocate for them. Article 319 of the country’s penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations with a fine and between one and five years in prison.

Some Senegalese lawmakers have sought to increase the prison sentence to 10 years for anyone convicted of engaging in homosexuality. These efforts thus far have not been successful.

Samm Jikko Yi (Together for the Safeguarding of Values), an Islamic lobby group that includes many organizations, in 2022 organized an anti-LGBTQ+ demonstration in Dakar, the country’s capital. Protesters called for harsher penalties for Senegalese who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

The Washington Blade in 2022 noted LGBTQ+ people have suffered physical and sexual abuse while in prison.

Senegal’s deep religious roots, which are largely Islamic, have contributed to the lack of tolerance of LGBTQ+ people in the country. This reality has prompted LGBTQ+ Senegalese to either flee the country or remain in the closet.

Media reports indicate there are fewer bars, clubs and other places where LGBTQ+ people can freely socialize.

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Kenyan court bars anti-gay protests

Mombasa High Court to reconsider case on July 24



Kenyan flag and court gavel (Image by Bigstock)

MOMBASA, Kenya — The queer community in Kenya can breathe a sigh of relief after a Mombasa court on Monday ruled clerics, politicians, and anti-LGBTQ+ groups cannot hold homophobic protests or engage in incitement.

The Mombasa High Court’s ruling, however, is temporary until July 24 when the court in Kenya’s second-largest city determines a petition on the issue.

Two petitioners — Mr. JM and the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation — last October sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome for allowing religious leaders and lobby groups to hold homophobic protests whenever a court rules in favor of the LGBTQ+ community.

The petitioners’ effort to demand a ban on anti-LGBTQ+ protests in Kenya was in response to a series of homophobic demonstrations, particularly in Mombasa, after the Supreme Court last September affirmed an earlier decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission to register as an NGO. 

Mombasa High Court Judge Olga Sewe in her Monday ruling also directed the petitioners and the respondents, who include Koome, two anti-LGBTQ+ activists and a national lobby group dubbed the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” that organized protests, to file their witness lists and counter statements within 14 days of the July hearing. 

“Pending the hearing and determination of this petition, this Honorable Court (does) hereby issue a conservatory order restraining the 2nd and 5th Respondents from calling on or inciting members of the public to carry out extra-judicial killing, lynching, punishing, stoning, forcible conversion, or any other means of harming LGBTQ+ identifying persons and their homes,” Sewe stated. 

She also stopped the “Anti-LGBTQ movement,” Koome and any state agency from any attempted “expulsion from Kenya or any party of Kenya of LGBTQ+ identifying persons or closure of organizations serving LGBTQ+ identifying persons.” 

The court’s directives come after the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation led a protest on April 11 against the “anti-LGBTQ Movement”‘s invasion of Mvita Clinic in Mombasa that “hateful misinformation” reportedly sparked because the facility also serves queer people.  

“Mvita Clinic, like all healthcare providers, serves the entire community,” CMRSL stated. “Targeting them for LGBTQ+ inclusion is discriminatory and an attack on the basic right to health. Everyone deserves access to healthcare, and we urge an end to the spread of lies. Let’s promote inclusivity and ensure Mvita Clinic remains a safe space for all.”

CMRSL in response to Osewe’s ruling said it was a “major win for safety and equality in Kenya” because it allows the LGBTQ+ people to live with “greater peace of mind.” 

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, an LGBTQ+ rights group, meanwhile lauded the court’s decision as a reprieve to homophobic attacks on the queer community. 

“There is some reprieve given the security incidents we witnessed during the protests on Sept. 15 last year,” INEND Communications Officer Melody Njuki told the Washington Blade.

“We had rescued LGBTQ+ folks in Mombasa, Kilifi, and Lamu, due to security incidents caused by the hatred the ‘Anti-LGBTQ movement’ mongered and the calling of violence towards people associated with the queer group and those identifying as members,” she added. 

PEMA Kenya, a Mombasa-based gender and sexual minority organization, also applauded the court’s temporary injunction, describing them as timely in protecting the LGBTQ+ community against all forms of homophobic attacks. 

“We welcome the ruling and we believe it will impact our members who for some time felt robbed of the freedom to express themselves,” PEMA Kenya director Ishmael Baraka told the Blade. 

The Nature Network, a rights organization for refugees living in Kenya, also welcomed the Monday ruling which it termed “a positive step showing the courts’ commitment to upholding human rights for all.”

“Anti-LGBTQ Movement” Chair Salim Karama, however, declined to respond to the Blade’s questions about the ruling until determination of the petition’s status. He noted the organization is waiting for their lawyer to speak with them about the decision and the filing of counter statements that Sewe ordered.

As LGBTQ+ rights groups seek the queer community’s protection in Kenyan courts, parliament, on the other hand in is set to consider a petition that notes what it describes as the proliferation of homosexuality in the country.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula on Feb. 27 referred the petition to the relevant parliamentary committee for inquiry after MP Ali Mohamed, a member of the ruling party and a vocal LGBTQ+ rights opponent, presented it in the National Assembly, the lower house of the Kenyan parliament, on behalf of a group of more than 70 Kenyans and religious organizations opposed to homosexuality.    

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For queer Nigerians, being on gay dating apps is still risky

Homophobes target users for violence



(Bigstock photo)

By Elvis Kachi | LAGOS, Nigeria — Gay hookup apps like Grindr, and dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have managed to proliferate queer communities in countries like Nigeria. 

Those who seek one night stands find what they want while those looking for love equally find what they seek. These platforms have managed to position themselves as safe spaces for queer people in anti-gay Nigeria. In recent times, however, it is proving to be unsafe, as homophobic people are quickly learning about the apps, and opening accounts that either seek to outrightly threaten queer people, or pretend to be queer, have long chats with gay people, invite them over, and inflict violence on them.

Take the case of Biodun, a queer Nigerian man who joined Grindr to meet up with guys like him. 

After Biodun had built a connection and agreed to meet with someone whose display name was “Mamba,” they decided to meet up only for him to be met with violence. Apparently, Mamba ran a catfish account. 

“I’ll never forget that day,” Biodun, who asked the Washington Blade not to use his last name because of safety concerns, said. “I still think about it, and sometimes blame myself for being very careless, even though Grindr was supposed to be our safe space.” 

Biodun’s experience isn’t peculiar to him. 

In Nigeria, draconian laws that criminalize same-sex relationships exist, making queer people turn to the digital realm to explore their identities and seek connections beyond the confines of societal oppression that comes with the physical environment. Gay dating apps such as Grindr, therefore, have emerged as virtual sanctuaries, offering spaces for queer Nigerians to forge friendships, find solidarity, and pursue romantic or sexual relationships. Spaces like this, however, have morphed into a landscape fraught with danger, as homophobic people have weaponized these platforms to perpetuate hate and violence. 

“Sometimes, I often wonder how they learned about these platforms,” Daniel, which is not his real name, told the Blade. “You would think that it is just us in the platforms, until you find out that the accounts are rooted in homophobia.” 

One time, someone’s bio read, “I’m only here to deal with the gay people. I know all of you, and I will find and kill you. We no want una for here (translates to “We do not want you here,” in English.)” It was a stark reminder that these spaces are no longer LGBTQ+-friendly for Nigerians. In 2014, there was the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act by former President Goodluck Jonathan, which not only criminalized same-sex unions, but also imposed severe penalties on anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy or support. 

This law catalyzed a surge in discrimination and violence against queer Nigerians; emboldening regular civilians, religious extremists, and even law enforcement agencies to target individuals perceived as deviating from traditional gender and sexual norms. Again, amid this hostile environment, gay dating apps emerged as lifelines for many queer Nigerians, offering avenues for discreet communication, community building, and the pursuit of intimate relationships.

The very anonymity and freedom these apps provided, however, became double-edged swords. 

The advent of screenshot and screen-recording capabilities on these apps, for example, reduced the risks of exposure, strengthening the safety and privacy of users. However, this also comes with its own lapses, as queer people using Grindr have often relied on screenshots and screen recordings to confirm the identities of potentials with their friends, before accepting to meet. 

“Before the removal of the screenshot option, I usually shared photos of others with my trusted friends,” Biodun shared. “But since that was taken off, there was no way for me to do that.” 

Although, according to Grindr’s terms and conditions, the removal came with privacy concerns, as it was to facilitate a safe dating experience.

This erosion of digital safe spaces is depriving queer Nigerians of vital avenues for self-expression and affirmation, and is exacerbating the psychological toll of living in a society that continues to systematically demonize their identities. Moreover, the normalization of homophobic rhetoric and violence in both physical and digital realms has perpetuated a cycle of fear and oppression, and is reinforcing this notion that LGBTQ+ individuals are inherently unworthy of dignity and respect. Despite these challenges, though, the resilience of queer Nigerians continue to persist, as they defy societal norms and assert their right to love and be loved.


Elvis Kachi is a Nigerian fashion and culture journalist. He’s had in pieces featured across platforms like BBC, Thomson Reuters, Essence Magazine, Condé Nast’s Them, etc.

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Ugandan Census will not count intersex people

Advocacy group report documents rampant discrimination, marginalization



Uganda Bureau of Statistics graphic

KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s national Census next month will not count intersex people.

The revelation about the exclusion of intersex Ugandans in the 9-day Census exercise that will begin on May 10 has been confirmed to the Washington Blade by the head of Uganda’s Bureau of Statistics.

UBOS Executive Director Chris Mukiza in response to the Blade’s questions on the issue said the agency has “no business with intersex.”

Their counting could have made Uganda the second African country and the third globally after Australia and Kenya to collect an intersex person’s data in a Census. 

Kenya’s 2019 Census determined there were more than 1,500 intersex people in the country.

Uganda had a population of 34.8 million, according to the country’s last Census that took place in 2014.

Intersex people in Uganda are among marginalized groups, subject to stigma and discrimination. The government has yet to recognize them as the third sex and consider them among other minority groups, such as people with disabilities, who enjoy special treatment.

Intersex people cannot be exclusively categorized as male or female for having a biological congenital condition with unique sex characteristics due to inherent and mixed anatomical, hormonal, gonadal, or chromosomal patterns that could be apparent before, at birth, in childhood, puberty, or adulthood.

Mukiza’s position of excluding intersex people in the Census, however, comes amid the prime minister’s office’s demands for inclusivity and equality for all the population. (The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”)

“We recognize that much work remains to be done particularly in addressing the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable communities, promoting inclusive economic growth, and combating climate change,” said Dunstan Balaba, the permanent secretary in the prime minister’s office.

Balaba spoke on April 18 during the National Population and Housing Census prayer breakfast meeting the UBOS convened. Religious leaders and other stakeholders attended it.

President Yoweri Museveni has noted that data from the country’s sixth national Census will be crucial towards achieving the nation’s Vision 2040 and help the government, non-governmental organizations, and donors in providing services to the diverse population.

“It will also provide the basis for planning the provision of social services such as education, health, and transport, among others at the national and local level,” Museveni said as he urged citizens to fully support the Census and provide accurate information.

Uganda has an intersex rights organization, “Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development (SIPD),” which activist Julius Kaggwa founded in 2008 with the support of groups that advocate for children, women, and other marginalized populations.

Some of SIPD’s work as a non-profit, grassroots organization includes community outreach and engagement, sharing reliable information with the society for the protection of intersex people’s rights, and championing the need for organized medical and psychological support.

The organization, through its numerous reports, has decried human rights violations against intersex people that include surgery without consent, discrimination in homes, schools and medical centers, parents abandoning intersex children, and stigma due to lack of legal protection by the government.

Uganda’s Registration of Births and Deaths Act allows a parent or guardian of a child under the age of 21 to change the name or sex at the local registration office. The SIPD, however, maintains this law is discriminatory to intersex people over 21 who want to change their sex characteristics, and want parliament to repeal it. 

The intersex rights organization wants the Health Ministry to establish a central registry to register intersex children after they’re born in order to receive support in terms of healthcare, social and legal by the government and other stakeholders as they grow up. 

SIPD particularly wants the government to enact a policy that would allow a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates for intersex children to ease any change of sex in the future. The organization also wants the government, through the Education Ministry, to adopt a curriculum that also considers intersex issues in schools and creates a friendly environment for intersex children to learn and graduate like their non-intersex peers.

These demands follow SIPD’s findings that disclosed many intersex children were dropping out of school because of the stigma and discrimination they suffered. The organization has further called on the public-funded Uganda Human Rights Commission to live up to its constitutional mandates of defending human rights by leading the promotion and protection of the rights of intersex people across the country.

SIPD has also challenged religious leaders, who play a key role in Ugandan society and are influential at the local and national level, to promote acceptance of intersex people and to end discrimination against them.

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Ruling that upheld Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act appealed

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law



Uganda’s Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

KAMPALA, Uganda — 22 LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Congolese bill would criminalize LGBTQ+ people

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s long-standing problems



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

KINSHASA, Congo — A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ+ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ+-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ+ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ+ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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Prominent Trans woman in Nigeria arrested, charged with defacing currency

Authorities say Idris Okuneye, known as Bobrisky, flaunted money



Bobrisky's arrest has sparked concern among Nigerian activists. (Photos courtesy of Bobrisky's Facebook page)

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s decision to arrest a well-known Transgender woman over the practice of flaunting money has sparked questions among several human rights activists.

Idris Okuneye, who is known as Bobrisky, was first arrested last Wednesday.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Lagos Federal High Court on April 5 charged her with four counts of mutilating N490,000 (roughly $375.)

The EFCC alleges Bobrinsky between last July and August flaunted N50,000 (roughly $36) during a social event and N400,000 ($306) at another gathering last month. Bobrinsky has been charged with violating section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act of 2007.

“The Lagos Zonal EFCC, on Friday, April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of Idris Okuneye, (Bobrisky), before Justice Abimbola Awogboro sitting at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos over mutilation of the Naira notes,” reads the EFCC complaint that misgenders Bobrisky. “He was arraigned on Friday on a four-count charge bordering on mutilation of the Naira notes to the tune of N490,000.”

“Justice Awogboro, thereafter, ruled, that upon the admission of guilt by the defendant, and following the evidence tendered, the defendant is declared guilty as charged,” adds the statement.

The EFCC said after listening to both parties, Awogboro delayed his ruling and also ordered that Bobrisky remain in EFCC custody. Activist Felix Abayomi said the EFCC was simply using Bobrisky as a scapegoat due to the fact that she is a vulnerable member of the society.

“Discrimination in the name of implementing a pick and choose law! Why go after someone that is a vulnerable member of our society? Someone that is clearly dealing and coping with stigmatization of her lifestyle choices which is innate. Using her as a scapegoat is uncalled for,” said Abayomi. “How does spraying the Naira that is cultural to us as a people ever even become a financial crime? People who commit economic and financial crimes against us as a people and against our nation state are sitting comfortably in the hollows of our legislative chambers and power.”

Chidi Odinkalu, the former chair of the National Human Rights Commission, said the arrest was not about the mutilation of the Naira notes, but about Bobrisky’s gender identity.

“The EFCC should be ashamed of themselves,” said Odinkalu. “The power of arrest and prosecution is a public trust that should not be weaponized for the persecution of those whom they don’t like. It is either the EFCC is evidently idle or this is a clear abuse of power.” 

EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale said Odinkalu’s statements were reckless.

“The commission views such commentaries from Odinkalu as unbecoming of a former head of a major government agency,” said Oyewale. “Okuneye was arrested and arraigned by the commission on the basis of clear cases of abuse of the Naira to which he has pleaded guilty.”

“Odinkalu has a right to free speech as a Nigerian, but such a right should be exercised with decorum and responsibility,” added Oyewale. “The commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.” 

Bobrisky is one of the few individuals on the African continent who has publicly discussed their gender transition.

Ever since she started to publicly show her transition, several Nigerian political pundits have been calling for her arrest. There are no laws that specifically target Trans Nigerians, but the Same-Sex Marriage Act criminalizes same-sex marriages and prohibits the public display of same-sex relationships with up to 14 years in prison.

In states where Sharia law is practiced, those found engaging in same-sex sexual activities can be sentenced to death by stoning. Even those who identify as trans can receive 50 lashes or more.

Update: Awogboro on Friday sentenced Bobrisky to six months in prison without the option of paying a fine. Reports indicate authorities will send her to a men’s prison.

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