NAIROBI, Kenya — A fresh bid to prevent the recognition of and equal rights for LGBTQ+ people in Kenya through a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Parliament.
The move is in response to this month’s ruling from Kenya’s highest court affirming its February decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.
Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, an outspoken critic of homosexuality, is the sponsor of the new initiative that is part of tightening the noose on LGBTQ+ people after the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed his petition that challenged its February ruling.
Kaluma wanted the ruling reversed since the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission advocates for homosexuality, which is against the law, and sought the court’s clarification on the term “sex” to exclude LGBTQ+ persons.
Kaluma has already written to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, notifying him of his proposal to have the term “sex” redefined in the constitution by repealing Article 259 (4) which judges perceive to also include consensual same-sex sexual relations.
“This will seal the constitutional gaps the courts are exploiting to introduce homosexuality into the country under the guise of ‘judicial interpretation’ and secure the legislative mandate retained in Parliament and constitutional-making power remains with the people,” Kaluma said.
He faults the judges for interpreting the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the constitution to also refer to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, or otherwise, not to be discriminated from sexual identity.
The controversial court’s verdicts have sparked an uproar in the country since Article 45 of the constitution only recognizes consensual opposite-sex sexual relations and Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
In redefining “sex” in law, Kaluma wants the term to be limited to the biological state of being male or female as assigned at birth and not “foreign sexual orientation and gender identity ideology” which he argues the judges based on wrongly. The MPs proposal to redefine sex, however, would not impact intersex people in Kenya since their recognition and sex identity are protected under a landmark law that took effect in July 2022.
Kaluma notes that the court’s ruling renders sex/gender fluidity away from the biological state of being male or female “to over 150 current gender categories abbreviated as LGBTQ+” which has serious consequences for women in terms of equality.
“The courts, unelected arms of government not directly accountable to the people, have been the weakest link in the battle for family values across the world. The Supreme Court of the United States failed the Americans and the European courts have failed the Europeans,” the MP said.
Kaluma, who has also sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House, added “we are in a war not only to save our society but to salvage humanity from the LGBTQ+ perversion”.
The lawmaker has also sought to strengthen his anti-homosexuality measure by adding punitive clauses, including one that would impose a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for gays and lesbians who are found guilty of engaging in non-consensual sex. Other provisions include a ban on gay Pride parades, assemblies, street marches, cross-dressing in public and all LGBTQ+-related activities.
The MP has also proposed proposes a fine of $14,000 or a 7-year prison sentence for owners of premises used for same-sex sexual practices.
“I urge all persons and institutions of goodwill to stand firm and ready themselves to fight against homosexuality. Even when we don’t win before the courts as is the case across the world, I am certain we will win before the people’s representatives in parliament,” Kaluma stated.
Muslim and Christian religious authorities last Saturday staged anti-homosexuality protests in the coastal city of Mombasa, which is the country’s second largest city. Protesters condemned and denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling and asking President William Ruto to “unequivocally denounce LGBTQ” like his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.
The Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, a leading Muslim governing body, on Thursday also condemned the Supreme Court and demanded the ouster of Chief Justice Martha Koome and other judges who ruled in favor of the LGBTQ+ community. The group argues the ruling offends Kenya’s social, cultural and religious beliefs while asking the president and Parliament to be “firm” like Uganda, which enacted a harsh anti-homosexuality law in May.
A presidential education reform working group last month in a detailed report presented to Ruto after gathering views across the country recommended the teachers’ employers to hire pastors and Imams in elementary and high schools to help fight homosexuality and other so-called immoral practices. This call came after the Education Ministry in March confirmed to MPs its decision to form a Chaplains Committee, led by Kenya’s Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, to stop the infiltration of LGBTQ+ practices in schools.
The working group’s report has yet to be introduced in Parliament.
Kenya’s relentless move to curb homosexuality comes at a time when top government officials, politicians, and during this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York raised concerns over backlash against LGBTQ+ and intersex rights around the world.
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South Africa poised to bolster penalties for anti-gay attacks, hate speech
Bill awaits approval in Parliament
PRETORIA, South Africa — The South African government is one step closer to ensuring any form of homophobia will be subject to hefty penalties that could include a lengthy prison sentence.
Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister John Jeffery on Nov. 22 noted the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill is now waiting approval in the country’s Parliament. President Cyril Ramaphosa will then sign it into law once it is approved.
First introduced in Parliament in 2018, the bill has been contested on its viability and how it would help protect people in South Africa against hate crimes and hate speech, particularly based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other form of discrimination.
MPs approved the bill in March and then sent it to the National Council of Provinces, which approved it on Nov. 17. The Justice and Correctional Services Committee approved the NCOP’s recommendations last Wednesday.
“Section 3 of the bill defines a hate crime as an offense committed where the offender is motivated by prejudice or intolerance towards the victim of the crime because of specified characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim or another person associated with the victim,” reads a Parliament press release about the bill. “These characteristics listed as grounds that could constitute a hate crime include age, albinism, birth, color, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender or gender identity, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant or refugee status, occupation or trade, political affiliation or conviction, race, religion, sex, which includes intersex or sexual orientation.”
The press release further notes Section 4 of the bill defines hate speech “as the intentional publishing or communicating of anything that can incite harm or promote hate based on grounds, including, among others, age, sexual orientation and race.”
“The bill also provides for penalties such as fines, imprisonment or both for those who are convicted of the offenses,” it reads.
Access Chapter 2, a South African LGBTQ+ rights organization, meanwhile, has now become the first LGBTQ+-led law clinic in the country. The Legal Practice Council last week officially registered the group.
Although South Africa is the only African country that protects same-sex sexual relations in its constitution, there has been a surge in anti-gay attacks — kidnappings, hate speech, rape and killings — over the last few years. This trend has prompted many people who identify as LGBTQ+ to be cautious about disclosing their sexual orientation.
Gerbrandt van Heerden of the Center For Risk Analysis, a market research firm, says there is an urgent need to better equip society, law enforcement agencies and other sectors to fight homophobic attacks.
“Officials such as police, teachers, judges and magistrates should receive proper training and resources regarding LGBT issues,” said van Heerden. “Sexuality and sexual health should be included as a subject in the healthcare worker curriculum so that professionals in the field will in future have sufficient skills to manage LGBT patients properly, and be more knowledgeable about their specific healthcare needs.”
Van Heerden added companies and employers should receive guidance that helps them understand a hostile-free workplace for LGBTQ+ people can improve productivity and output and attract talent. Van Heerden also said official data, such as that in the national Census, should include Trans South Africans and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Doing so will demonstrate how serious South Africa and its policymakers are in cherishing and respecting the country’s progressive constitution,” said van Heerden.
Nigerian fashion industry provides safe haven for country’s LGBTQ+ community
Homosexuality criminalized; lawmakers want to make cross-dressing illegal
BY ELVIS KACHI | LAGOS, Nigeria — For their SS/24 collection titled Mea Culpa, Emerie Udiaghebi, a young Nigerian androgynous fashion label, ventures into the world of religion, and how conflicted they used to feel growing up as queer and Christian. The collection, built by Udiaghebi, who is a nonbinary designer, is a way for them to add colors to the lackluster they’d felt growing up with a religious background, translating their many experiences into garments they’d have loved to be in while growing up.
“[It] tackles every single feeling, and every single thing it means to be human,” Udiaghebi told the Washington Blade. “There’s love, there’s lust, there’s sadness and they are all open to a range of interpretations. This collection was my interpretation, but with garments.”
Nigeria’s fashion industry has a vibrant tapestry and cultural landscape, and it stands as a bold and expressive thread that weaves together the nation’s rich heritage and contemporary trends. Beyond aesthetics, it serves as a powerful form of empowerment, particularly for the queer community that often faces unique challenges in this diverse and dynamic country.
For members of the country’s queer community, fashion is more than just a collection of fabrics and garments; it’s a means of empowerment.
“Mea Culpa touches a whole lot into my identity, down to how the pieces are constructed,” Udiaghebi said, “If you looked closely at the collection, you’d find that no one garment is one thing. They’re all elements of themselves.”
In a country where LGBTQ+ individuals often face discrimination, violence and social stigmatization, clothing serves as a powerful tool for self-expression. The ability to choose what to wear can therefore be a liberating act, allowing queer individuals to challenge stereotypes and embrace their authentic selves.
Babatunde Tribe, a nonbinary Nigerian stylist, freelance model and artist, shares these sentiments.
“You see, every outfit I put together has a purpose, a message and a little rebellion against the ordinary,” they told the Washington Blade, “It takes a keen eye to notice that I’m not just getting dressed; I’m crafting a visual narrative.”
For people like Tribe, fashion has become this gateway for expression and community building. It’s become a way to celebrate their unique identity, and assert their presence in a world that often forces conformity.
Speaking of non-conformity, fashion week events in Nigeria are being swarmed with these incredible expressions. They have also presented themselves as a safe space for the queer community to dress expressively. These events, characterized by their eclectic mix of styles and designers, offer an environment where attendees can freely express their identities through clothing. It’s a place where diversity is celebrated, and queer individuals can showcase their unique fashion sense without fear of judgement or discrimination.
Victor, a gay man who attended Lagos Fashion Week highlights in an interview with Dazed Media the significance of these events.
“My most considerable style inspiration would be societal issues like gender norms and discussions around masculinity,” he said. “I try to use my style to push these kinds of conversations.”
While fashion serves as a source of empowerment for the queer community, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act remains in place.
This law, which former President Goodluck Jonathan enacted in 2014, same-sex marriage and any form of public displays of affection between individuals of the same sex. The SSMPA not only perpetuates discrimination; but also extends its reach into clothing choices, placing queer people at risk for expressing themselves through what they wear.
The SSMPA has therefore had a chilling effect on personal expressions of style.
Dressing in a way that challenges traditional gender norms can lead to suspicion and harassment. Police officers, often motivated by prejudice or lack of understanding, have targeted individuals based on their attire, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the queer community.
Just recently, Nigerian authorities arrested suspected gay people for attending an alleged same-sex wedding and birthday party in Delta state and Gombe state respectively. MPs last year pushed for a bill that would criminalize cross-dressing in Nigeria — an update to the already existing SSMPA.
Despite the oppressive legal environment, many members of Nigeria’s queer community are not deterred. Fashion has become a tool for activism and resistance. Designers, artists and activists are using clothing to raise awareness and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. They recognize the power of fashion as a platform to challenge the status quo and fight for greater acceptance.
Queer City Media and other organizations have organized fashion events that celebrate queer identities and challenge stereotypes. These events provide a platform for designers and models to express their creativity while advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. It’s a way for the queer community to make a powerful statement through fashion, showcasing that they refuse to be silenced or marginalized. As Nigeria grapples with complex social and political issues, the role of fashion in empowering the queer community is likely to evolve.
The future of fashion empowerment in Nigeria hinges on the collective efforts of the queer community, fashion industry and allies. As acceptance and understanding grow, so too will the opportunities for queer individuals to express themselves freely through clothing. Fashion weeks, already crucial safe spaces, may continue to expand, inviting a broader spectrum of voices and styles. As the Nigerian fashion scene continues to flourish and the conversation around LGBTQ+ rights gains momentum, the transformative power of fashion in this diverse nation remains a source of strength and inspiration for many. Nigeria’s fashion industry stands as a beacon of empowerment for the queer community. It offers a safe haven where LGBTQ+ individuals can boldly express themselves, challenge stereotypes and celebrate their unique identities.
Desecration of gay man’s body, student’s suicide spark concerns across Africa
Activists decry recent incidents in Senegal and South Africa
JOHANNESBURG — Activists have expressed grave concerns over attacks against LGBTQ+ people in Senegal and South Africa.
The two countries have a different stance towards LGBTQ+ people: Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Senegal, while South Africa’s constitution explicitly recognizes LGBTQ+ people. They are nevertheless experiencing anti-gay attacks.
The body of Cheikh Fall, a 31-year-old gay man, which had been buried in the central Senegalese town of Kaolack was exhumed on Oct. 29. Local residents the following day set it on fire in front of a large crowd after they learned about his sexual orientation.
“The Senegalese State is totally uninvolved in the security of 2SLGBTQIA+ persons,” Souleymane Diouf, founder of Collectif Free du Sénégal, a Senegalese LGBTQ+ rights group, in a previous interview with the Washington Blade. “Complaints are rarely filed. When an 2SLGBTQIA+ person reports to the authorities a danger or an imminent threat to their life, little is done for the victim. Also calls for hatred and murder targeting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community go largely unpunished in the country.”
Four men have been arrested in connection with the incident and the Public Prosecutor’s Office has condemned it. The Senegalese government, however, continues to consider the introduction of measures that would punish those who identify as LGBTQ+ people and those who advocate for them.
‘Lives are at stake’
Sibusiso Mbatha, a 12-year-old student at Khehlekile Primary School in Ekurhuleni, South Africa, died by suicide on Oct. 25 after his teacher bullied him because he showed “gay tendencies.”
“We are really appalled by the manner in which the school reacted to the point that Sibusiso would hang himself,” said Mpho Buntse, a spokesperson for Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group. “These are the unfortunate incidents we are encountering now in this country. Last year we had again a similar incident and these SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) attacks should be nipped in the bud, especially in a country that constitutionally recognizes everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.”
“We urge the government and the police to take a stand against these heinous acts and deal decisively with that teacher,” added Buntse. “Our deepest condolences to the Mbatha family. May Sibusiso’s soul rest in peace.”
Sibonelo Ncanana, human rights coordinator for OUT South Africa, said the tragic incident should be a wake-up call for the provincial and national education officials.
“To start to rectify this crisis, a comprehensive approach is necessary,” said Ncanana. “At a minimum, this includes sensitizing all educators about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression on an ongoing basis. Additionally, school curricula should include affirming representations of diverse families and loving relationships, and there should be an acknowledgement of gender diversity, such as providing at least one gender-neutral bathroom per school.”
Ncanana cited the South African Human Rights Commission’s recent report on school uniforms, noting students should be able to wear them based on their identity and gender-neutral options should also be made available.
“Public relations visits by education officials to the families of victims of school bullying are simply not good enough. Lives are at stake, and we know what needs to be done,” added Ncanana. “The national Department of Education must stop dithering and immediately implement long-awaited mandatory guidelines to create safer and inclusive schools for all LGBTIQ+ learners.”
Ruth Maseko of the Triangle Project said the incident speaks of the torture that many students face because of their sexual orientation.
“We are saddened by the passing of a young person whose life has been cut short,” said Maseko. “When we are having people this young take their own lives because of the prejudice, judgement and discrimination of others, it should stop people in their tracks and make them examine their prejudice. It is unacceptable.”
More than 70 arrested at ‘homosexual’ birthday party in Nigeria
Gombe state arrests took place amid anti-LGBTQ crackdown
GOMBE, Nigeria — Nigerian authorities last month arrested dozens of people in Gombe state who were celebrating homosexual birthdays” and planning to “hold a same-sex marriage.”
Media reports note the country’s paramilitary agency on Oct. 23 announced the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corp authorities arrested 59 men and 17 women.
An NSCDC spokesperson said authorities raided the party after it received a tip that “homosexuals and pimps” were attending it.
The spokesperson said 21 of the 59 men who were arrested “confessed to being homosexual.” A statement the local NSCDC released said the party organizer had planned to marry another man.
“We unreservedly condemn these blatantly discriminatory arrests and call for the immediate release of all involved,” said Amnesty International in an Oct. 25 statement.
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.
Police officers on Aug. 28 stormed a hotel in Ekpan, a town in Delta state, and arrested more than 200 people who were attending a same-sex wedding. Authorities later paraded dozens of those who were arrested in front of journalists at a police station.
Maryland state Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County) is among the Black LGBTQ+ lawmakers who protested Nigeria’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown outside the Nigerian Embassy in Washington on Sept. 12. The Democrat this week described the arrests in Gombe state as “vile.”
Annual Johannesburg Pride dedicated to ‘those who cannot march for themselves’
Organizers specifically cited LGBTQ+ Ugandans
JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg Pride organizers dedicated their annual event that took place on Saturday to LGBTQ+ people in Uganda and other African countries.
“We marched not only for our local LGBTQ+ community but also in solidarity with our Ugandan and African counterparts who face unique challenges in their fight for equality,” said the organizers in a press release. “Johannesburg Pride was honoured to raise awareness for those who cannot march for themselves, shining a spotlight on the issues faced by LGBTQ+ individuals across the African continent.”
Media reports indicate more than 20,000 people participated in the march that ended at Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” Lawmakers in Kenya and Tanzania are urging their governments to enact similar measures.
Authorities in Nigeria’s Delta state in August arrested more than 200 people at a same-sex wedding.
The Mauritius Supreme Court earlier this month issued a ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Namibia Supreme Court in May ordered the government to recognize same-sex marriages legally conducted in South Africa and other countries.
Mauritius Pride march celebrates decriminalization ruling
Country’s Supreme Court this month issued landmark decision
PORT LOUIS, Mauritius — An LGBTQ+ rights organization in Mauritius on Oct. 21 held the country’s first Pride march in two years.
The march did not take place over the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a law that did not recognize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Supreme Court on Oct. 4 declared Article 250 of the Penal Code that criminalized homosexuality unconstitutional.
Collectif Arc-en-Ciel said this year’s march held a special significance because it celebrated the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the 1838 penal code provision.
Running under the theme of “Together Always United in Diversity,” the march included several business leaders and representatives from the diplomatic corps as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“The Supreme Court’s judgment on Section 250 is a significant step not only for LGBTQIA+ community members but for everyone advocating for a more inclusive society,” said Collectif Arc-en-Ciel President Ryan Ah Seek. “While we savor this victory, we are aware that there is much more to be done to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and the right to freedom of expression for LGBTQIA+ individuals.”
Collectif Arc-en-Ciel Director Jean-Daniel Wong said Mauritians’ strength lies in unity and diversity, with a multisectoral approach involving all relevant stakeholders: Elected officials to the government, opposition, public and private institutions and civil society organizations.
“Only by being more united than ever, with a multisectoral approach and the support of the LGBTQIA+ community, can we continue to work together to promote greater equality within the diversity that characterizes the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Wong. “I warmly thank all those who have contributed once again to making this event a success through their presence and continued support, especially members of the diplomatic corps and leaders from the private sector.”
Seek stressed there is still work to be done to ensure LGBTQ+ Mauritians are fully integrated into society, despite the Supreme Court ruling. These include Transgender rights, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and civil unions for same-sex couples.
Collectif Arc-en-Ciel notes there have been a few reported incidents of physical attacks on LGBTQ+ Mauritians in the country over the last couple of years. Hate speech from religious and traditional leaders, however, seems to be on the rise because of their large following and reverence they command from many aspects of society. This uptick, in turn, has forced some LGBTQ+ Mauritians not to publicly disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Muslim extremists in Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, a few weeks ago erected a billboard that castigated homosexuality. Collectif Arc-en-Ciel nevertheless feels the Supreme Court ruling will help reduce the attacks and allow Mauritians to understand the need to protect LGBTQ+ people.
“After 18 years of existence, of hard work against all odds, we are still here and committed to our community for a more inclusive and equal Mauritius,” said Wong. “We are full-fledged citizens of this country, and it is our duty to remain united and committed to advancing our rights as equal citizens.”
New guidebook to sensitize Kenyan judges on LGBTQ+ rights
Advocacy group and jurist coalition co-authored publication
NAIROBI, Kenya — An LGBTQ+ rights organization and a coalition of jurists in Kenya have unveiled a judicial guidebook to help judges better protect queer people’s rights.
The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination and the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Association consider the use of the book in Kenyan courts as a milestone in realizing LGBTQ+ rights.
The book, titled “A Legal Resource Guide on Implementing LGBTIQ+ Human Rights in Kenya”, cites endless discrimination and legal challenge against queer persons because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
It details dozens of court cases and rulings in favor of LGBTQ+ petitioners from across Africa and abroad for Kenyan judges to adopt in their rulings for queer people to enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts when seeking justice.
“By providing details on past cases and the jurisprudence employed in them, the bench book displays how cases involving these minorities are handled, argued and settled. This black-and-white approach can, in turn, help set different criteria moving forward,” part of the 122-page book reads.
The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination and the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Association since 2021 have trained more than 135 jurists across the country on protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons in their ruling.
High Court Judge Edward Muriithi, the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Association’s public secretary who presided over its launch on Oct. 13, described the book as “an eye-opener” for judicial officers to handle and enforce matters related to minority rights in courts with “an open mind.”
Muriithi also acknowledged the existence of LGBTQ+ people in society and noted they also deserve to enjoy human dignity, rights and freedoms as the constitution’s Bill of Rights affords.
Mumbua Matheka, another High Court judge who forwarded the book, considers it valuable reference material for her and other judicial officers who struggle with what she terms as “our moral judgements” in hearing LGBTQ+ cases.
“It will help us to see practically what our colleagues in this jurisdiction and others have done when members of this community come into contact with the law or seek justice in any of its many forms from the courts,” stated Matheka.
She notes tit is their duty as judicial officers to uphold Article 27 of Kenya’s constitution that prohibits any form of discrimination against anyone by any person or the state.
Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, who has sponsored a tougher anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House, sharply criticized the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Association for its involvement with the book.
“Several judges and magistrates in Kenya are recruited by homosexual groups to normalize homosexual/LGBTQ perversion in Kenya through the courts,” Kaluma said. “Already 135 Kenyan judicial officers trained, a guide on homosexuality launched for courts!”
Muriithi and Matheka’s support for the queer community’s rights comes amid a series of anti-LGBTQ+ protests in some parts of the country that include Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and Mombasa that religious leaders and politicians have organized to denounce homosexuality.
The homophobic protests are in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling that affirmed its February judgment to allow the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.
Clerics and politicians during the protests have been demanding the resignation of three judges, including Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu who ruled in support of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Kenya’s constitution only recognizes consensual opposite-sex relations under Article 45 while Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex relations.
Mohamed Ali, an MP from the ruling party who is a vocal anti-LGBTQ+ critic, is among politicians who are leading the protests. He has vowed protesters remain steadfast in the fight against homosexuality to protect Kenya from the ploy of “any foreign power.”
“We call for the three judges that passed this morally and ethically flawed ruling to apologize, reverse, or resign from their positions,” Ali said. “The filth of homosexuality has no room in our beloved country.”
An LGBTQ+ rights group in Mombasa, however, has sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome over the protests and wants the court to ban on them in the country for promoting incitement and hate.
Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination Executive Director Esther Adhiambo attributes the discrimination and hostility against the queer community in Kenya to existing gaps in the constitution on the protection of sexual and gender minorities’ rights, social justice and inclusion.
“We therefore took it upon ourselves to create a bench book that would facilitate the wider adoption of practices prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression,” Adhiambo stated.
Although some lobby groups and activists have lauded the Kenyan courts for issuing judgments that favor the LGBTQ+ community, Adhiambo lamented the systemic lack of fairness for queer persons to get justice. She, therefore, called for more civic education for homophobic Kenyans to embrace diversity and non-discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in society.
Adhiambo expressed optimism the new book will inspire and embolden judicial officers to perform their duties independently to also protect the rights of queer persons against stigma, discrimination and homophobia.
Mauritius becomes latest country to decriminalize homosexuality
Country’s colonial-era sodomy law declared unconstitutional
PORT LOUIS, Mauritius — The Mauritius Supreme Court on Wednesday declared Article 250 of the country’s penal code that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations unconstitutional.
The Young Queer Alliance, RekonekT, Collectif Arc-en-Ciel and other advocacy groups over the last couple of years have fought hard to decriminalize homosexuality in the country.
Abdool Ridwan Firaas (Ryan) Ah Seek, a gay man and prominent LGBTQ+ activist, in October 2019 filed a lawsuit that sought to strike down the penal code. His legal team included lawyers Gavin Glover, Yanilla Moonshira and Komadhi Mardemootoo. Human Dignity Trust and the organization’s founder, Tim Otty, and Herbert Smith Freehills supported the case.
“It has been a long battle and receiving this judgment in my favor is an enormous relief,” said Seek. “From today, as a citizen and a human being, I am now free to love whoever I want without fear. Above all, it also means that the next generations can fully and freely embrace their sexuality without fear of being arrested.”
LGBTQ+ Mauritians consistently face verbal harassment and even physical attacks from the community and religious sector, even though authorities rarely arrested anyone under Article 250 before the ruling.
Anjeelee Beegun of RekonekT said the Supreme Court ruling ensures everyone’s human rights are respected, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“Today the Supreme Court finally recognized that Section 250 of the penal code violates the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the constitution,” said Beegun. “More importantly, the Supreme Court has stated in clear terms that the constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, protects us from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Beegun further described the ruling as a historic moment for LGBTQ+ Mauritians, noting the penal code is a legacy from the country’s colonial past.
“We can finally break free from the shackles of a centuries’ old law which, despite being a remnant of the country’s colonial past, continued to feed into the stigma and hate against LGBTQIA+ people in present days,” said Beegun.
“The LGBTQIA+ community in Mauritius continues to face numerous challenges, but the decriminalization of same-sex intimacy is paramount to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people,” added Beegun. “This judgment is a huge leap forward in the right direction and will hopefully inspire the community to continue fighting for equality and dignity.”
Young Queer Alliance said the existing penal code violated the constitution.
“Section 250 of the criminal code is unconstitutional and violates Section 16 of the constitution in so far as it prohibits consensual acts of sodomy between consenting male adults in private and should accordingly be read to exclude such consensual acts from the ambit of Section 250,” said the group in a social media post.
Human Dignity Trust Chief Executive Téa Braun said the ruling was long overdue.
“Another 8-year effort comes to a gloriously decisive victory for equality and justice,” said Braun.
Collectif Arc-en-Ciel Vice President Dimitri Ah-Yu commended Seek for his endurance and perseverance in the case.
“This is an historic day for our organization and the entire LGBT community in Mauritius,” said Ah-Yu, noting Section 250 dates back to 1838. “We salute Ryan Ah Seek for his courage and the Supreme Court for choosing inclusion and human rights over conservatism and reprobation. At Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, we believe that it should be a collective responsibility to stand against discrimination and defend fundamental human rights.”
Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa are among the other countries in southern Africa that have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Mauritius Supreme Court issued its ruling roughly two months after a Pan Africa ILGA conference took place in the country.
LGBTQ+ rights group sues Kenya police chief over anti-gay protests
Mombasa demonstrations began after ruling allowed NGO to register
MOMBASA, Kenya — An advocacy group in Kenya has sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome for allowing religious leaders and lobby organizations to hold homophobic protests whenever court rulings favor the LGBTQ+ community.
Two petitioners — Mr. JM and the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation — have sued Koome in the High Court in Mombasa, the country’s second largest city, and demanded a “ban on anti-LGBTQ protests in the country.”
The petitioners’ move is in response to recent anti-LGBTQ+ protests, particularly in Mombasa after last month’s Supreme Court ruling that affirmed its February decision in support of the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission and its ability to register as an NGO.
The controversial ruling sparked criticism from clerics, politicians and the general public. Demonstrations the two petitioners have described as gross human rights violations against the LGBTQ+ community followed.
An MP from the ruling party and Mohamed Ali — a celebrated investigative journalist whose anti-gay motion for the government to ban public discussion, reporting and distribution of LGBTQ+ content in the country passed overwhelmingly in Parliament — are among those behind the homophobic Mombasa protests.
Six LGBTQ+ lobby groups applauded the rulings as a “crucial shot in the arm towards LGBTQ rights” and condemned protest organizers for “mobilizing towards hatred and marginalizing others.”
Mr. JM and CMRSL have also sued two anti-LGBTQ+ activists and a national lobby group dubbed the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” that organized the demonstrations, in addition to the police official whose office authorizes street marches by issuing permits to protesters.
“The petitioners have sought to include new amendments to the petition filed last week via the court’s online filing system and they have until Oct. 11 when the court will give directions to the hearing of the case,” a source familiar with the petition told the Washington Blade.
To stop any future homophobic protests, the petitioners want the court to declare the LGBTQ+ community is also entitled to constitutional rights and freedoms without hate or discrimination just like their opposite-sex counterparts.
They argue the anti-LGBTQ+ protests, characterized by incitement to violence in March and last month in response to the Supreme Court’s rulings, have led to increased cases of homophobia and threats to the lives of the queer community across the country.
The petitioners claim the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” group has been propagating “violence, elimination and expulsion” of the queer community from the country in its relentless homophobic campaign. They further allege that organizations working with LGBTQ+ people have recorded “more than 100 cases of violence, forced evictions and denial of services” by landlords, employers and the public as a result of these protests.
The petitioners also claim the protests have led to the shutting down of “more than 20 organizations and medical facilities” that provide essential HIV and STI treatment services to LGBTQ+ people because of security concerns.
Mr. MJ and CMRSL in their case have included the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a state-funded watchdog organization, as an interested party, although it always distances itself from defending LGBTQ+ rights.
The Kenyan Constitution, which only recognizes consensual opposite-sex relations, directs the KNCHR. Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
This sidelining has forced the LGBTQ+ community to demand a representative to the KNCHR to represent their interests, such as intersex people who are represented after a landmark law that recognizes them as Kenya’s third sex, took effect in July 2022. The petitioners did not engage KNCHR before listing it as an interested party.
The state-funded National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Amnesty International Kenya and the Kenya Human Rights Commission are among the other institutions the two petitioners have included in the case as interested parties.
Amnesty International Kenya with Irungu Houghton as its executive director on Sept. 30 held the “State of Freedoms and Rights in 2023” conference in partnership with United States International University Africa in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Participants demanded respect for the rights of every person, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The rights organization vowed to fight any infringement of the rights of any person or group, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, in line with its newly launched 4-year strategic framework for 2024-2028 that will guide its human rights advocacy.
Meanwhile, some parents in one of Kenya’s all female high schools are angry after administrators suspended 18 students who allegedly engaged in what they described as lesbianism.
The students’ suspension from Cardinal Otunga Girls’ High School in the western part of the country last week has caused fury among their parents, because they are set to start taking their final high school national exams on Oct. 10. This action comes amid the government’s plans to consider a recommendation from a presidential task force on education reforms to hire imams and chaplains in schools to guide students against what they feel is the infiltration of LGBTQ practices.
Eswatini government refuses to allow LGBTQ+ rights group to legally register
Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities
MANZINI, Eswatini — The Eswatini Commerce, Industry and Trade Ministry this week said it will not allow an LGBTQ+ rights group to register.
The country’s Supreme Court in June ruled the government must allow Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities to register.
The Registrar of Companies in 2019 denied the group’s request. Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities the following year petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. The Supreme Court initially ruled against the group, but it appealed the decision.
“[The] Minister of Commerce and Trade refuses to register ESGM citing the ‘Roman Dutch Law,'” said Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities on Thursday in a tweet to its X account. “This was after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the refusal to register ESGM by the registrar was unconstitutional.”
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